August 29, 2019:
It was some while before I understood Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. Three or four weeks, and in that time I behaved very badly.
She was hurt, and frustrated. Frustrated: short-term memory was a mess, she'd forget the plans we'd made the night before, simple to-do lists, therapy appointments. Hurt: I'd snarkily snap mean things, like, "Weren't you paying attention? We decided this last night." When I was impatient with her she'd blame herself for not remembering, and question whether her brain was permanently broken. She was anxious, depressed, very scattered. When she thought I wasn't watching I'd catch her quietly crying.
My behavior is especially inexcusable because I acted, albeit on smaller scale, very much as her family had for so many years. I took her new behavior personally, as though it were a language of disrespect focused at me. When it's merely a perfectly common symptom of the brain's struggle to repair itself after years of substance-induced misfunction.
I was ignorant, and insecure. The change in her behavior intersected a particularly raw place of depressive vulnerability — the worry that I wasn't being heard. Ignorance combined with fear: same drivers of blame-the-victim as her family's.
I'm grateful this didn't last as long as it might have. I no longer remember how we got clued-in. It's likely her therapist educated her, probably when she shared how hurt she felt. I remember the two of us going online together to study up, and I vividly remember the lightbulbs going off over our heads. Ah. That's what's happening. Got it.
And I remember feeling terribly guilty, as I do today thinking back. It wasn't her fault. It's what happens when addicts begin their recovery. Although it eventually clears up, it can last many months.
We took steps. We wrote everything down. This is our plan for tomorrow. This is our list of appointments. These are the movies we'd like to rent. We learned to forgive her forgetfulness. It was easier for me than for her. Once I'd internalized the fact that it was not about me I was able to view her scattered state with detachment, as just one more symptom of the disease. Actually a hopeful symptom, this time, because despite how frustrating it was, it was a sign of healing.
You can understand why it was harder for her. It felt to her as though her brain were malfunctioning, which, being literal, it was. The thing is, with alcohol it had malfunctioned for more than a decade. It's that this new malfunction was, well, new, so that a period of adjustment was necessary for her to acquire perspective.
I'm petty enough, and angry enough, to contrast this outcome with two decades of blame-the-victim by her family. To my knowledge not one of them ever at any point chose to get educated about the disease. They were walking repositories of mythologies and misconceptions, all centered on castigation. There's a straightforward reason for this. They were far more broken than she ever was. In the most secret recesses of their hearts of hearts the addiction made them happy, because it gave them permission to behave as they'd always wanted, with fangs drawn and resentments thrown like bricks. They were thrilled to be allowed to treat her as bottom dog, the one the entire pack was free to bite. They loved it, and that's their tragedy. They're small people with petty morals and very narrow lives. They're all terribly unhappy.